No trip to Borneo is complete without seeing wild orangutans. Seeing animals in a zoo is depressing. Seeing them in the semi-wild is wicked sweet!!
If you visit Kuching, you gotta go to Semenggoh Nature Reserve. It's less than an hour from the city. For a little context, Kuching is the capital city of the state of Sarawak, which is on the island of Borneo, which is part of Malaysia. Here is the map in case you missed the last post:
Ok, back to the wildlife. You probably are wondering why I said "semi-wild"? The Semenggoh Wildlife Center was set up in the 1970's as a rehab center for injured animals. They help sick animals and then release them into the jungle.
Semenggoh basically acts as a feeding center for the endangered Bornean Orangutans. Twice a day they call out for them and if they come, they get to eat fruit. During the fruitful seasons in the jungle, the orangutans don't even show up, cuz they're full. This makes the staff happy, but the visitors sad.
Semenggoh is actually a little controversial, because some think we are intruding on their space too much. See the article here. I didn't see any problem with it. They're endangered and making sure they are fed seems like a good thing long term.
There are a bunch of other areas on Borneo where you can see orangutans truly living in the wild. I've already got a spot I want to come back to: Danum Valley in Sabah (just up the coast on Borneo) came recommended by a guy who guides up there, and it is home to Proboscis Monkeys, Orangutans AND Pygmy Elephants. YUP, I'll be back.
Feeding time is 9 - 10am, and then the afternoon. I went at 9am based on the recommendation of a fellow traveler --- thanks Yogginy! Higher likelihood of seein' 'em early.
The workers led us on a short hike to get to the feeding area. And then, they call out to them, yawping wildly into the jungle every minute or two.
We waited. And waited.
9:15. No orangutans.
9:30. No orangutans.
At this point, the crowd seemed defeated. The adrenaline had faded. I started taking pics of cool jungle flora.
Then, all of a sudden...we see large treetops swaying irregularly way off in the distance.
The excitement was palpable!
And then, the tree next to it started swaying...they're getting closer!
The first sight of one off in the distance, was unreal. I've seen orangutans in zoos before, but this was like Jurassic Park type stuff. Thrilling!
These guys are so acrobatic and flexible.
They seem like they are having a blast as they are climbing trees, swinging and swaying.
It's just their way of moving around, but arboreal locomotion just looks so fun! Who wouldn't want to be Tarzan, swinging from vines? Maybe I should get into trapeze...
2 came out to get their fruit on and we watched them for about 20 minutes.
They did not come close to the crowds like when Yoginny was there. But, I didn't mind. Call me crazy, but I tend to appreciate a bit of distance with wild animals.
For the most part, they had their backs to the crowd.
But, every once in a while, they would check us out.
I love how they hold the fruit with their feet, and use their hands to eat---all while holding on to the ropes. Amazing animals.
After about 15 minutes, one of the feeders announced that there were two or three baby orangutans approaching the front area if we wanted to see them.
When he said babies, I had this vision of orangutans in diapers, sucking on passies. But, naw, these babies look pretty grown to me.
Look how flexible this one is. Doing a split, holding his weight with his toes, while scarfin' some fruit.
10am, feeding time was over! But, I'm thoroughly happy with my visit to Semenggoh. Thought I was gonna get skunked. Instead I got orangutan-ed.
Next up...the grand finale! Borneo's Wicked Wildlife Part 3.
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